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Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche

My first book of 2009!

Author: Robert A. Johnson
118 pgs.
My rating:  A-

"To honor and accept one's own shadow is a profound religious discipline.  It is whole-making and thus holy and the most important experience of a lifetime."  -- from the Introduction

     "This powerful work from the acclaimed Jungian analyst and best-selling author of He, She, and We explores our need to "own" our own shadow - the term Jung used to describe the dark, unlit part of the ego.  In this rich work, Robert Johnson guides us through an exploration of the shadow: what it is, how it originates, and how it interacts and is made through the process of acculturation.
     Johnson asserts that until we have undertaken the task of accepting and honoring the shadow within us, we cannot be balanced or whole, for what is hidden never goes away, but merely - and often painfully - turns up in unexpected places."  -- back cover

      I haven't personally read as much of Carl Jung's work as I'd like to - only about half of Myths, Dreams and Reflections - but for anyone who has a basic idea of his theories or simply would like an introduction to a very important one, this is definitely a must-read. 

     Divided into three main sections, the book takes the reader through an explantion of the shadow, a study of romantic love as shadow, and the use and origin of the mandorla (more commonly known as a mandala).  Though many of the concepts are abstract, Johnson explains his - and Jung's - ideas in terms that are simple to understand and provides concrete examples from his own life that many readers could probably relate to.  He gives examples of how to deal with one's shadow in everyday life, as well as how it often pops up in romantic relationships and why this may be.  Overall, I found this book very useful, informative, and at some points beautifully and poetically written.  I really liked that the author stressed the importance on a cultural and possibly global level of each individual taking personal responsibility for their own "dark side", and even more so that he provided practical ideas for ways on how to do this.

   I suppose the "minus" in the A- comes from the fact that there are points at which it feels like the author is repeating himself, particularly in the first section.   However, with the book overall being such a fast and simple read, I didn't find myself minding that much.  Anyone interested in psychological theory would probably get a lot out of this.
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